making sense of mathlissa

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 11 2013

Giving Thanks

“School for fourteen years and my best teacher was experience” ~Common

When you say that you want to be a teacher, people always ask you why. I guess they ask that to other people too, but it seems to me they ask teachers specifically. “Did you have a teacher that inspired you?” they always ask expectantly. I never know how to answer this question, even though I’ve wanted to be a teacher for a long time.

They never ask kids who want to be doctors if they had a good doctor in their life. They certainly don’t ask future lawyers if they want to be a lawyer because they have had a good lawyer in their life. And yet, people always ask if you have had a certain teacher that made you want to be a teacher. As if that were the only reason anyone would want to be a teacher.

I think the reason why I don’t like being asked this question is because I don’t really have a good answer. Er, sorry.

I know I was supposed to have this whole Freedom Writers meets Stand and Deliver inspirational story but I kinda just…don’t.

That’s not to say I didn’t have great teachers. I definitely have two specific teachers that were amazing, dedicated educators who also happened to be totally rad. They made me think about being a teacher, but I also wanted that as a thing that wholly separately from them.

I think I find it a little corny, and kinda lame to be all OMG THANKS TEACHERS YOU TOTALLY INSPIRE ME. Which is weird and also bad because — I’m really hoping to be that kind of teacher. And when my Breakthrough students expressed those kind of sentiments, I loved it. I mean absolutely ate it up. I’m talking hoarding-tiny-pieces-of-scrap-paper-because-one-of-my-students-drew-me-a-picture-so-now-I-must-keep-it-forever levels.

I went back to my middle school to observe as part of my pre-Institute work, and miraculously, I didn’t die. Though I think most of the kids were laughing at me (some things never change), I made it through the day, thanks to some awesome teachers who let me observe their classrooms and made sure I didn’t sit by myself at lunch (seriously, I ate in the teacher’s lounge). So go back to your elementary school, middle school, or high school and say thank you!

While we all probably have those too-cool-for-school moments, can we all agree to make more of an effort to thank teachers who really inspired us? Reach out via email, or send a shout-out here. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it means a lot.

P.S. This post was partially inspired by the recent discovery  that I am a legacy corps member (i.e. I was taught at some point in my K-12 education by a Teach for America corps member or alumni). Before Teach for America had emailed me, I had no idea.

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    melissa's take on math and mastery and making sense of it all

    Greater Philadelphia
    High School

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